Siol nan Gaidheal
Ye Hielans and Ye Lowlans, whaur hae ye been?
Agus caite a’ bheil sibh a’ dol?
A theme visited recurrently upon our National Liberation Movement - one of the more irritating ‘red herrings’ used periodically by our opponents- is the one about the highlands and the lowlands as two variant identities at odds with one another.
In its least extreme form this notion describes Highland things as couthier and more truly Scotch in essence than Lowland things. It offers Gaelic as the language of the Highlands and balances this with so-called Scots or more grindingly offensive, Lallans, which it indicates as the indigenous linguistic mode of the Lowlands. It generally ascribes the kilt and the pipes to both, though still speaking of the Highland Dress, and it offers cauld or at best rehet parritch as a postulated common staple. Pitched at this level, it proffers a compromising dual national identity of The Scotch and The Scotcher. None of this insipid pap offers anything either to stifle or inspire the rebirth of a nation which seems to gaze at a distortion of its image, in this scenario, by means of an amusement-park mirror, but it would outrage only the confirmed purist. In Siol nan Gaidheal we are nothing if not purist.
Viewed with less tolerance this ostensibly innocuous set of assumptions is the basis upon which rests the very dangerous misrepresentation of Scotland as a land of two different and mutually exclusive cultural communities. It is this divisive notion of Highlands versus Lowlands, charged with its linguistic, religious and structural aspects and carefully fostered by an alien power, which has been at the root of so many of our difficulties through the most challenging centuries of our history and which has, on several occasions, cost us the day.
Another dangerous nonsense inherent in this frame of reference is the lie (fostered by rootless cosmopolitans) of the multicultural society. It is expressed something like this: we are a mongrel people, so what does it matter if we are joined by a new influx of foreigners.
Recently, this dreadful misinterpretation of the complexities of our history has tended to be employed by English Settlers in the Highlands as some sort of justification for their presence there and as a means of legitimising their interference in the social fabric of Highland life. Rendered simply, they angle it like this: “quiet spoken, unassuming, humble, altruistic Highland Folk, used to being put down and humiliated for generations, by grasping, materialistic, domineering Lowlanders are being bolstered and defended by forthright, sturdy English Yeoman types who have moved in among them, and who are determined to put down roots and to carve out a new homeland for themselves (and their odious offspring) to enjoy. The remnant indigenous population will benefit (from the arrival of these pushy interlopers) by the prerequisite extension of services consequent upon increased human population”.
Wrong ! All Wrong !!- However, only a hard won and detailed understanding of a very elaborate and extended process would serve to counter such a superficial explanation of what is happening in our rural area’s today.
Firstly, it is necessary to remove (notionally) the recent English incomers from the equation and to return to the internal nation-wide Scottish nature of the contention. We will not consider the ‘New English’ again here, having said enough about them already and elsewhere.
Not all of the Highlands is high and not all of the Lowlands is low. What may seem a trite anti-tautology, in fact, provides one of the keys to clarity in this most obscured yet fundamentally important contention.
In the beginning was Scotland. The lumpier parts of the country were only that. The flatter parts were only that. At the birth of Scotland as a unitary nation state there were no ethnic, linguistic or cultural barriers to divide or confuse our people.
Siol nan Gaidheal articulates the origins of Scotland as lying with the arrival of our Gaelic Ancestors from Ireland and the cultural forms and structures which they brought with them intact from that ancient homeland. Additional impetus and vigour were added to the political vitality of the concept of Scotland by the inclusion of the Romanised Cymric survivors of Celtic Britain (Gwyr Y Gogledd) who chose to subsume their destiny within the Ethnic-Scottish Proto-State, rather than join their more southerly fellows in conquest, humiliation and ultimate extinction at the hands of the invading Anglo-Saxon Barbarians. Thus was born SCOT-LAND, perfect in feature and form, and with an unblemished CELTIC complexion.
No Anglo-Saxon settlers arrived in Scotland prior to the current inflow of outlandish, startlingly unkempt, curtain-clad vegans; except for some pockets of refugees allowed sanctuary by Malcolm Canmore following their Norman Conquest - and that was the first error of judgement in a linear series of consequent disasters. One of those refugees was the Anglo-Saxon Princess Margaret who mesmerised our King and discreetly introduced by the servants entrance, the Vulgar English Speech, which cuckoo-like, has elbowed Gaelic from its proper place, simultaneously undermining the Celtic Christian Church, eclipsed by her favoured Latinate doctrines. That single individual arrival here has generated every unhappiness and disadvantage to which we have been subjected as a people, from that day to this. Interestingly enough, earlier in our history, Margaret notwithstanding, no English settlers, who had been allowed sanctuary in Scotland in the manner of what we would currently understand to be refugee status, were allowed to live any less than 80 miles from the border. Thus the ersatz English Language speech of the lowlands cannot be explained as a consequence of wholesale Anglic immigration.
Where and when the ethno-linguistic divisions in our society began, as all scholars in the matter are in full accord, must be sought for in the beginnings of the Burghs and the new ‘rationalised’ political and religious structures which David 1 introduced under the influence of his Norman advisors.
Along with such came the prerequisite influx of Flemish/Dutch speaking artisans and merchants, as well as the French and Latin of higher office. Overnight, in the area’s close to political centre-stage, Gaelic speech became a rural and disempowered medium. Now, bear in mind that, initially, these new epicentres of political power enjoyed only a tenuous currency, removed from the popular sympathy, and in constant danger of being toppled by the natural tendency of indigenous culture to reassert itself. However, bear in mind the corresponding natural tendency of all human structures to assume power and influence and to accrue greater and more entrenched tenure to themselves and you may touch the true nature of the so-called ‘Highland-Lowland’ divide: in essence not an ethno-linguistic contention but a clash of proto-ideologies. How are people to perceive themselves and to lend meaning to their lives: by the adherence to indigenous values, of loyalty, kinship, language, nationality, religion, law, and the rest; or to a pragmatic disavowal of all but commercial and fiscal considerations ? Where better to preserve the indigenous forms and usages than behind the rampart of a range of mountains: where easier to implement new rules and regulations than where the forces of the central authority may march unimpeded ?
Since the Romans conquered Gaul, and possibly before, this has been the greatest choice facing our people and all peoples. Currently, Serbia stands alone in the face of the same question. Will the Serbs be strong enough to remain Highlanders or will they eat the proffered shit, hand over their most sacred monasteries to become the new mosques of the comparatively fecund Albanians who have been backstabbing them for five hundred years, apologise for their pride, descend onto the notional Lowlands, and in return, have all the Coca-Cola that any Walt Disneyfied Slav could ever dream of? Not so much ethnic-cleansing as the cleansing or washing away of all ethnicity. A formula could surely be found whereby they may continue to speak in a strong accent so that they may preserve their identity — Serbish, let's call it.
In point of fact, there is scarcely a Highlander left in Scotland: where are they who have maintained the Language, Culture and the undaunted Spirit of the Gael, in the face of our opponents and of our detractors? Where there Highlanders, there could be no Daily Record, no Brian Wilson, no George Robertson, no Robin Cook, no skelly-eyed Helen Liddel (at any rate, with heads upon their shoulders) and no notion of ‘a sufficient measure of autonomy’. There is, however, an unstinted plethora of Lowlanders, even where the ground rises to the giddiest of heights, and even where Canan nan Gaidheal may yet occasionally be heard : because aspirations languish, eyes averted, hands wringing, on the benighted plains.
The historic task of Siol nan Gaidheal concerns the reawakening of the Highlander in our people, even those who dwell upon that smooth machair of the mind which ‘Sanct’ David 1 bulldozed into our collective consciousness so long ago.
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